CAVE Interview Series: Kenny Hotz

Meet Kenny Hotz.

He’s an actor, director, photographer, bar owner and champion of Canadian comedy.

He’s written for South Park, released several documentaries, and produced his own sitcom.

Clearly, Kenny Hotz is doing something right.

In 1999, Hotz moved to Los Angeles alongside his long-time writing partner and friend Spencer Rice to develop their eventual hit series Kenny vs. Spenny. Hitting the airwaves in 2003, the show was initially picked-up by CBC, but was later moved to Showcase (in Canada) and the Game Show Network (in the US) after an array of censorship issues.

The series would later move to Comedy Central and produce a total of 90 episodes.

In the aftermath of Kenny vs. Spenny, Hotz wrote, produced and directed his next sitcom, Testees, in 2008 before turning his attention to Kenny Hotz’s Triumph of the Will.

I sat down with Kenny in a Toronto coffee shop to break down his incredible career, his experiences on Kenny vs. Spenny, and the next step for this beloved entertainer.

1. First of all, what was your favorite episode/humiliation combo on Kenny vs. Spenny?

It started with season one, when we did “Who is the Better Parent”. I thought “oh my god, finally, this show is fucking incredible!”.

We saw who was the better parent, but the network wouldn’t show it. Every single year I had a favorite episode. I truly think “Who Can Blow the Biggest Fart” is the greatest episode ever. I took that show to LA and gave it to Matt Stone. He and my friends were watching it, and they fell off the couch laughing. I remember sitting there thinking “wow, this is fucking cool”.

I love all of the episodes, though. I don’t think we had a single dud over 90 episodes. They’re all fucking great.

2. I spent time in Germany over the summer and I had people asking about Kenny vs. Spenny and the German version – Elton Vs. Simon. Talk about the versions of Kenny vs. Spenny.

I think Elton vs. Simon was probably the only format that came together. Ed vs. Spence in England was pretty good, too. Spenny and I flew down to Bogota for the Colombian format Juan vs. Roman and we started everyone with “Who Could Stay Awake the Longest?” because we wanted to judge how good the cast was. No one really had the balls to do what we did.

3. You’ve done some writing for South Park. What’s it like to work with Matt Stone and Trey Parker?

It’s pretty crazy. It’s funny, we went out one night and Spenny got so wasted that he basically blew his chance with them.

I got asked and I went. I really didn’t do anything. Trey goes around the table and after about three months, I got in the odd jew joke.

When I went there, I thought “this is season nine…this is the year that everyone will know Kenny Hotz came in”. But I sat there like a bee in a jar and couldn’t really get anything out. To be honest, they don’t need any help.

I would sum it up as good and bad. It’s hard for me to work on anybody else’s stuff. I was sitting there all edgy, thinking I want my own fucking South Park. It was tough for me to sit there and make money writing somebody else’s stuff when I should’ve really been doing my own shit. I don’t really care about money. It’s more important to make great stuff that’s mine.

4. In your career, you’ve explored documentaries. You documented the Gulf War, you did the Papal Chase in 2004, then you moved into TV. Was this your evolution, or just a change in passions?

I’ve always made films. My brother could draw. He was a really good artist. I chopped off part of my finger, so I couldn’t draw. I bought a camera instead.

It was all out of laziness, really. I was a stoner, and I made movies. I didn’t really want to do anything else. My brother went off to medical school, and I basically did nothing. I played video games, sold weed and made shitty movies with my friends.

It was always a cop-out,  but I just did it for so long. I got lucky and I did a little movie with Spenny. I had some decent connections, but it’s like what Emimem says – “you only got one shot” – so you can’t fuck it up. Ultimately, there was a list of opportunities that I didn’t fuck up.

People always ask me “how do I get in the business?”. The answer is really simple: make great stuff. If you want to be a great artist, make great art.

5. Ater Kenny vs. Spenny, you started Testees. Tell me a bit about the experience.

Testees was impossible.

I got that deal while I was doing Kenny vs. Spenny, so I was doing both shows at the same time. That pissed off Comedy Central and FX. I had six days to air the show. We wrote every episode over a weekend and went to camera on Monday. It was a nightmare, but the president of FX said “give me a product by this date or you’re not getting a show”. In hindsight, I’m still wondering if it was worth getting Kenny vs. Spenny cancelled on Comedy Central.

That was definitely a crossroads in my life. I just don’t know how much longer Kenny vs. Spenny could have gone. By the time we got to Comedy Central, we were already at season 5. I was scared the show would get repetitive. The show was so crazy, so with censorship issues, I don’t know if could have maintained the quality of the show in the US.

I loved producing and being behind the camera. It was unreal. I had my own sitcom on FX. That was pretty crazy. If the market didn’t collapse, I think the show would still be there. It was so cheap for everyone. But hey, it got cancelled.

I’ll tell you, the feeling of getting cancelled; that feeling is so shitty.

It’s funny, Triumph of the Will got the biggest possible nomination in Canada (Best Comedy Series). But nobody saw it, and it got thrown in the toilet. It’s weird now. People keep telling me they love it. It’s kinda like Bieber. People are liking it way more than they should.

6. What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had with a fan outside of Toronto?

I was with my girlfriend in Hamburg and we went into some random restaurant. I walk up to the host and he says in a heavy German accent, “Kenny Hotz!”. My girlfriend just put her head down and shook it. Later, I was being chased down the street by teenagers in Germany. It was unbelievable. There are many golden moments like that. Cops treat me differently, they pull over to ask me where I am going, and then give me rides. I haven’t gotten a ticket in 10 years.

7. You own two restaurants, The Hoxton and The Dog and The Bear. What led you to the restaurant industry?

I think Toronto is exploding. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world and after 9/11, everyone is coming here. It seemed natural, so why not? Owning a club is fucking wicked. Things are going well, so I hope the world doesn’t end.

But owning a pub near your house is not cool.

8. Yeah, that could be a little dangerous.

Yeah, holy shit. You meet people there, and everyone wants to go. Free scotch. I’m still drunk from last night. I just went and drank scotch all night. I’m getting old, too. It’s not cool to go and get wasted every night. I’m trying to be really good.

9. As we move into 2013, what’s next for Kenny Hotz?

Well, I just started pitching again. I took off about a year and a half because I was so traumatized by Triumph being cancelled. It was hard for me to get motivated because I’ve stuck my mom’s head in a fireplace and dressed like an Auschwitz prisoner. It’s like, “what more do I need to do?”. What more can I do?

And it’s weird, I feel like I’m getting more famous. It’s amazing to me that I’m still relevant.

But really, no one is doing anything today. Right now in Canada, what is there for people to watch? It’s a vacuum. There is nothing and there is nobody. It’s pathetic.

Tom Green opened the door for us and we walked through it. You’d think there’d be someone else continuing the chain of comedy. I guess people are sticking to what they know – which is Kenny vs. Spenny.

10. Is there is anyone in the industry you’d like to work with?

Seth McFarlane would be cool. But really, I’d work with a homeless guy with no legs if he was cool.

It’s always dangerous collaborating with others.  There are very few people I can trust enough to share my projects with.

11. What’s your favorite city, and which city has the best beer?

I love Belgian beer. I used to work at a bar that served over 500 Belgian beers.

The best city in the world is Toronto. I’ve lived in L.A., and I came back here. I don’t want to get on an airplane anytime soon. If I want to go to Rome, I’ll just go on google maps and walk down any street.

12. Any advice you’d give to a guy in college?

Something simple can fuck up the rest of your life. If you get wasted, steal a car and get caught – you’re fucked. It’s easy to just try a drug, or not wear a condom. I’m not saying “don’t try things”, but I’ve had six friends die from heroin. There are some very serious repercussions in life from doing one stupid thing.

On the other side of the coin, one smart thing can make your life.

I don’t believe there is a God or an afterlife. You have one shot at this, so you better enjoy it. It goes really fast. I’ll be 46 this year and I feel like I was 19 last year.

That’s basically it. Don’t fuck your life up. You should all get that tattooed on your foreheads.



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